Late Mifsud strike sinks U's

COLCHESTER United crashed to their second away defeat of the week, undone by a late strike from Michael Mifsud at Coventry City this afternoon.And their miserable day was complete when Teddy Sheringham was sent off for violent conduct in stoppage time.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United crashed to their second away defeat of the week, undone by a late strike from Michael Mifsud at Coventry City this afternoon.

And their miserable day was complete when Teddy Sheringham was sent off for violent conduct in stoppage time. The 41-year-old lashed out at Michael Doyle and was duly sent off by referee Ray Lee. He now faces a possible three-match suspension.

The U's were never at their best in the west Midlands, and they were made to pay when danger-man Mifsud struck home a low drive in the 81st minute, the ball taking a deflection off Pat Baldwin and rolling in off the inside of the far post.

It was the Maltese international striker's eighth goal of the season, and there was no way back for the U's.

Having conceded three goals inside the last 20 minutes at Ipswich on Tuesday night, this was another late killer blow for Geraint Williams' men.

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But whereas the U's produced a superb display for 70 minutes at Portman Road, they were well below par all afternoon at the Ricoh Arena.

They had just one real chance, when Kevin Lisbie's goalbound shot was well blocked by keeper Andy Marshall in the 78th minute. Otherwise, the Sky Blues were in the ascendancy and Mifsud poached all three points with a quality finish.

It was an instantly forgettable first-half, with neither side really looking like breaking the deadlock. The U's showed very little as an attacking force, with Mark Yeates seeing very little of the ball.

United did begin in positive fashion and Kem Izzet blazed over the bar from the edge of the box following a second minute free-kick.

But Coventry soon began to boss possession and danger-man Mifsud, with seven goals to his name already this season, won the game's first corner in the 10th minute. From Michael Doyle's delivery, centre-half Arjan de Zeeuw headed wide of the far post.

Three minutes later and fellow centre-half Ben Turner launched a long throw into the U's box. Aidan Davison was quickly off his goal-line to catch.

There was a glimmer of hope for the visitors in the 19th minute. Danny Granville did well to make room for himself to deliver a cross from the left flank, and Clive Platt's flick header lacked pace as keeper Andy Marshall easily gathered.

Granville almost caught out Marshall on the half-hour mark. His swirling cross would have looped in at the far post, only for the ex-Norwich and Ipswich keeper to get the faintest of touches to divert the ball away from goal. United could not capitalise on the ensuing corner, which was their first of the afternoon.

There was a worrying moment for the U's in the 36th minute. Davison could only half-clear Doyle's free-kick from the right flank. His mis-punch dropped at the feet of Turner, but from his low cross Kyle could not connect with a clean shot.

Into the second-half and Granville swung over a cross which Yeates rose high to meet with a header that ballooned over the bar. That was Granville's last contribution, because the left-midfielder was then replaced by substitute Kevin McLeod in the 56th minute.

Both sides made a change on the hour mark. Sheringham came on for the U's up front, in place of Platt, while Dele Adebola replaced Kyle in attack for the Sky Blues, much to the delight of most of the home fans.

Sky Blues boss Iain Dowie made his second substitution in the 66th minute. Robbie Simpson replaced Best, and it almost led to an immediate goal. Doyle swung over a corner and Simpson headed goalwards with a downward header that Izzet did well to block at the near post. The U's midfielder stopped a certain goal.

Lisbie nearly snatched a goal for the U's on 78 minutes. He latched onto Yeates' low cross and fired in a shot that was blocked on the goal-line by Marshall.

It was Coventry who grabbed what proved to be the winner in the 81st minute with MIFSUD blasting home his eighth goal of the season.

United had been under pressure, and when Sheringham lost his footing and the ball near the centre-circle, Mifsud ran forward a couple of yards before unleashing a low drive that beat Davison, via a deflection off Baldwin, to roll in off the inside of the post.

Davison denied City a second goal on 83 minutes. He did well to beat away Adebola's vicious shot on the turn, and the U's scrambled away the loose ball.

In the third minute of injury-time, Sheringham was sent off for lashing out at midfielder Doyle near the touch-line. That red card for the former England striker summed up a dismal day for the U's.


COVENTRY CITY: Marshall 7, McNamee 6, de Zeeuw 7, Turner 7, Hall 6, Mifsud 7, Osbourne 6, DOYLE 8, Gray 6 (sub Tabb, 90+2), Best 5 (sub Simpson, 66), Kyle 5 (sub Adebola, 60). Unused subs: Cairo, Konstantopoulos.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Davison 7, Duguid 7, Baldwin 6, Connolly 6, Elokobi 6 (sub Virgo, 87), Yeates 5, IZZET 7, Jackson 6, Granville 7 (sub McLeod, 56), Platt 5 (sub Sheringham, 60), Lisbie 6. Unused subs: Watson, Gerken.

Referee: Mr Ray Lee (Essex)

Attendance: 23,431